Concert Review: Zaza and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, May 8th, Estragon, Bologna, Italy

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

This review is being brought to you by Davide, our giant Italian correspondent. Again, I apologize for the tardiness.

When you go to a gig and realize that most of the crowd is manly dudes, all fired and pumped up for the main band, you always hope the supporter won’t have too much of hard life once on stage (Italian fans don’t hesitate, nor do they need pretenses to hammer/destroy an opening band if they feel like it).

That is what I was thinking just before Zazawas going on stage. But fortunately, this didn’t happen. They delivered a 30 minute set that was more rock ’n roll and less “dreamy/shoegazey” than I would have expected based on what their Cameo EP sounds like. It’s definitely always a plus to see that a band doesn’t sound exactly the same live on stage as they do on their album (what’s the point of going to see a live performance otherwise? ). Adding a stable drummer has given them more presence and depth (who the fuck needs a drum machine? You heard me, all XX aficionados). The set started slow but it rapidly got more intense. Couple of songs from the EP, (of course Always On..how fuckin awesome is it to drive/be on the metro back home listening to this song late at night? ) and from the upcoming full length. Then all of the sudden, but right on schedule, the set ended. And that’s the problem. For a band like Zaza, a short performance doesn’t quite fit. Once you dive in, you should be able to get carried by the flow of music longer than for just four to five songs.  I can therefore say that I’m looking forward to seeing them as a headliner.

Now let’s talk about the main event, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Their first album came out in the same year as This is It by The Strokes. And both bands were sold here in Europe at the time as members of the new scene of indie rock ’n roll first emerged  (this “scene” also included the White Stripes, if anyone still remembers Hotel Yorba).  But now, almost 10 years later, after all the side projects and solo albums made by Casablancass & Co. and Mr. White, Black Rebel Motorcycle have shown us why it could be perceived as insulting to compare them to those other scenesters. By continuing to make good albums and touring all the time, they built integrity and a reputation that very few bands enjoy, while still going without the credit that they deserve from the general public.

When I say that I haven’t seen such a pure and genuine rock ‘n roll show in ages, I fuckin mean it. The concert was two hours of loud and sweaty rock, just like it was supposed to be. There were also moments of authentic gospel and blues, like for example in “Ain’t No Easy Way”. The movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” even popped in my mind at some point; and I mean that in the best possible way. BRMC produced a truly impressive set that counted on songs like, “Whatever Happened to My Rock ’n Roll”, “Stop”, and “Love burns”, from the previous albums. Most of their set was mainly focused on their recent album “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”.  I  personally had kind of lost track of them through the years, but in 2010 they caught my attention again.

Before I sign off I will quote what one of the italian promoters said to me while we were chattign a little bit after the gig: “..If they were born 30 years ago, we would be talking about them as if they were one of the most important rock ’n roll bands of all time” . The enthusiasm of the crowd was evident, and it’s not too late to spread your love  for The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Interview: Zaza, May 8 2010, European Tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Estragon, Bologna, Italy

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything, Music | 9 Comments

First of all, I apologize for taking so long to post this. Zaza, the three piece Brooklyn-based band (that we have referenced in our Best-of 2009 and end-of-year podcast, review of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart North American Tour) has been gracious enough to speak with our European friend, Davide prior to their sound check in Bologna before opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on May 8 at the Estragon.

It has been a very busy spring for Zaza. They have already completed their first European tour after opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and we can expect a full length LP from them in 2010, which was on my wishlist from 2009. So well done and godspeed!

Join us as Davide embarks on a world of conversation with Zaza, covering the live versus recorded debate, how they signed with Kanine, their history with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and the organic process that they have enjoyed since it all started.

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Concert Review: Band of Horses, May 11th, The Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – Surprise shows are always cool. Surprise FREE shows, well, that’s super cool. This was what happened Tuesday night. Seattle’s Band of Horses was in Buffalo on Monday night, opening up for Pearl Jam. Their next show was in Bristow, Virginia on Thursday. So with a two day break, the band decided to venture up to Toronto and taste the freedom. Well, after a few drinks at the Horseshoe (where they are friends with management), the band decided to play an impromptu show there that night. It was the weekly nu-music night anyway so there were a few bands playing who were more then willing to lend the Band of Horses their equipment. Word of their surprise show spread quickly on twitter and the next thing you know, the Horseshoe was packed with people of all varieties.

Now I’ll be honest and say aside from the song Funeral (which they did not play), I know very little of Band of Horses. I was pretty content to sit at home, dissect what the hell happened on Lost (seriously..what the hell was that) and then maybe finish Gears of War 2. However, I didn’t want to pass up a free show at a small venue for a band that can probably sell out the Phoenix, so despite the nagging rain and unfriendly winds, I ventured forth to the Horseshoe.

The crowd at the show was split into two varieties – those who really liked Bands of Horses, and those who heard the buzz. The great thing about surprise free shows is that the crowd is pretty electric, partially because they all think they are part of something secret and special. So when the band came on stage at around 11:26, the crowd was ready to go.

I don’t quite know any of the songs they played, but it was pretty much what you would expect from an American indie band that has a bunch of beards-plaid shirts. For me, it had a touch of My Morning Jacket. They have a psuedo-classic-south-but-kinda-mellow-country rock vibe going. Ben Bridewell’s voice definitely reminded me of Jim James or the guy from Youth Group, meaning it’s a very strong voice good for crooning. With their third album Infinite Arms coming out next Tuesday, the band also used the show to fine tune a few of the new tunes, which to me, sounded pretty good. They did several covers, including one of Gram Parson’s A Song for You and some Replacements song.

All in all, you can’t really ask for more on a dreary Tuesday night. There was a bit of electricity in the air, the band was happy to be there (it was Creighton Barrett’s birthday), the show was good and the crowd left happy. I really hope someone stayed for Eve and the Ocean, the band that played next.

You can stream the entire Infinite Arms album here

The Band of Horses will play on the Island as part of the BSS/Pavement super show on June 19.

Laredo by bandofhorses

HotDocs review: A small act [2010, Jennifer Arnold]

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Hot Docs, Reviews | 1 Comment

Toronto – On the last day of Hot Docs 2010, and in this my last review for the festival this year, I want to mention one thing. Ford Fiesta FAILS. For the number of screenings (136,000+ attendance, apparently) Hot Docs could do much better than a half-hearted CG sketch of 3 fake economy vehicles pretending to be fashionable. That type of marketing works well for Ferrari and Porsche – I hardly think men/women drool over a GEO equivalent thinking that it’ll be the next status symbol on their list. Why not hold a competition for short films with the help of NFB for that slot? Or Coca Cola, if short on commercial sponsors, which has found an interesting balance between commercial and short films?

Anyways. Now that my 2 cent is spent, let’s get on to the story of Chris Mburu. A small act follows Chris, a human rights attorney working for the UN, through the turmoil he and other had to go through to set up a local scholarship fund in his native Kenya. The impetus is a diminutive Jewish lady living in Sweden. For years, Hilde Back had given something like $15/month to a foundation, and directly sponsored Chris’ education from primary to secondary school. Since secondary school isn’t mandatory in Kenya, those who do not make it has little chance of learning anything beyond simple concepts. This does not only lowers the productivity, it further opens the population to political manipulations. Having worked in situations like those in Chad, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chris (and his cousin) believe that education is a solution to such problems – so they set up a foundation in Hilde’s honor. The film follows the inaugural year of this scholarship, which unfortunately coincided with an election and ethnic wars between Kenyan groups. It documents not only how the foundation is operated, but also the struggles of 3 top students in getting funded for the secondary education their families cannot afford.

This is a simple and easily sensational story. It’s difficult to not be moved by Kimani, Caroline, and Ruth when they thought they had disappointed their families. Many will cringe at how poor the conditions are, and lament at how many kids are left behind simple because they have no money. But that’s the whole point – how many, after cringing, actually pay forward this small act of kindness? Apparently quite a few. They raised $90,000 at the Hot Docs screenings alone. And when the film crew found out that only one of the students could be funded by the Hilde Back foundation, they pitched into help the other two. It ends Hot Docs for me on a warm note, but it’s not the best film this year by a long shot, not the least because Arnold has chosen an easy topic. But as long as it moves people to donate and volunteer for a higher cause, I will happily enjoy more warm-&-fuzzy documentaries.

Well that’s it. Hot Docs have been very interesting this year, and with age it only gets better. Until next year!